The National Transport Movement (NTM) union is in financial distress and has not paid the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and its employees’ provident fund for months.
At least three of its employees have reported union executives to the police, who are investigating cases of fraud, because union members were not made aware that the union was not paying taxes or the members’ contributions to the provident fund.
The union’s general secretary, Ephraim Mphahlele, confirmed he was aware of the case opened against him and other office bearers but said it was based on the “malicious lies” of a disgruntled former office bearer, Craig Nte.
Mphahlele said NTM was not the only entity that had defaulted on provident fund and tax payments. “There are millions of companies in the country that have defaulted. We are not in the wrong. If we don’t have money, we don’t have money,” he said.
Other union members say they are livid because the union, which has more than 50 000 members, had failed to pay Sars, which reflected negatively on them.
According to a letter from Sars, dated September this year, NTM has failed to make payments of nearly R1-million for its employees’ taxes.
“You are requested to make full payment within 10 business days from the date of this letter of demand,” reads the letter.
In another letter, dated October 26 last year, Old Mutual also demanded that NTM had to pay the provident fund.
“The last month for which we received contributions and corresponding data that we were able to process was 30/06/2017. If you fail to meet the deadline, the trustees have resolved to liquidate a sub-fund,” reads the letter.
By April of this year, there was a letter confirming the application for the dissolution of the NTM’s Old Mutual Superfund.
One NTM member and former office bearer, Robert Sebati, said he started asking questions about his tax certificate last year and was sent from pillar to post. He said he was suspended last year, then reinstated, only to be fired as an office bearer this year.
“Because no one was telling me what was happening, I went to Sars and Old Mutual to get answers. I got records showing that NTM had not made payments to either, yet there were deductions for both on my pay slip. The question then becomes: Where is the money?” he said.
Payslips show that PAYE and provident fund contributions have been deducted every month.
When Mphahlele was asked where the employees’ money was, he said the union had financial constraints and could not make the payments and, even though the payslips showed deductions, these had not been used for their intended purpose.
“The fact that we are owing is an open secret because we had cash-flow problems. That has even been discussed at our NEC [national executive committee] meetings. But we have made arrangements with the administrator of the provident funds.
“The reason we had the problem is due to opening offices across the country, which is part of our constitution[al duty],” he said.
Mphahlele said there was nothing wrong with the deductions showing on the payslips, “so they [union employees] know that there is money that we are owing them. We can’t say we deducted money from the employees because the money was not there as a result of these cash-flow problems.”
Meanwhile, the police’s specialised commercial crime unit is also investigating possible cases of fraud.
Nte, the former deputy secretary general of the NTM, has also opened a case against Mphahlele for allegedly trying to apply for a home loan using Nte’s details.
“I discovered that Ephraim Mphahlele made [a] fraudulent home loan application in my name without my permission. He unlawfully placed me on suspension on the 9th November 2017 — 16 November 2017 to ensure that I’m not available at the office and out of his way, so that he can easily access my personal information,” reads the affidavit Nte submitted to the police.
Mphahlele denied this allegation and said Nte had been dealing with the company working with the home loan.
“He signed the papers out of his own volition. We were in the process of buying an NTM house, where we would not be paying rentals,” said Mphahlele.
NTM bank documents also show that NTM funds were paid to the wife of Christopher Manamela, the treasurer general.
The acting president of the NTM, Mashudu Raphetha, said Manamela had a joint account with his wife and hence her name was reflected on the statement.
But Mphahlele said Manamela had asked for the money be put into his wife’s account because his bank account was in arrears.